For the first time, most of the world’s populations live in cities.
Rapid growth in air travel means even more people will be visiting them in the future. So where does the world want to visit, do business, or live? Ipsos MORI has surveyed over 18,000 people in 24 countries, to find out. The most striking finding from the Ipsos Top Cities research is that there are a handful of “superbrand” cities. New York is the clear leader, but London and Paris, in joint second place, do very well indeed, chosen by large numbers of people as places they want to go.
But the world’s public don’t just think about America and Europe. The United Arab Emirates may be home to the tiniest fraction of the world’s population, but punches far above its weight in terms of profile, as witnessed by Abu Dhabi’s 4th place as somewhere to visit. Meanwhile, Sydney’s claims to truly be a “world city” are confirmed.
It’s clear that the global public is quite discerning and knows the cities well enough to avoid having to make hasty generalisations. New York is the place to make money. Paris is the best place to spend it. But for us, the surprise star is Zurich, which beats all its rivals in being the place the world’s public would most like to live.
London receives a global vote of confidence. It is a genuine all-rounder, appearing on the Top 5 for each question, an achievement only matched by New York. If we restrict our focus to the young, it is London, along with New York, which is the most popular place to live for under 35s all over the world. And when we look at the views of the 11 European countries, London is the continent’s most important city. Together with positive signs for the UK economy generally and in the wake of London 2012, this is both a sign for celebration by Boris Johnson and as a prompt: what now needs to be done to ensure London continues to punch above its weight? Will all the people who want to move to London be welcomed or even housed?
300 miles away from London, Paris will not be too downbeat. The capital of the world’s most visited country is the clear winner as the world’s favourite place to visit, whether respondents are from Argentina, Australia or Canada. But Paris falls down on its reputation as somewhere to do business, and this will surely worry French policy-makers as they debate what needs to happen to get France’s economy moving more quickly. Just 7% see France as one of the world’s top business locations. It is beaten by Washington, a city not normally associated with the commercial world, as well as Mexico City, Kuala Lumpur, Beijing and Shanghai. Rome is in a similar position, with just 2% seeing it as a business centre, only a tenth the number who rate it a top place to visit on holiday.
At the other end of the spectrum are Hong Kong, Beijing and Shanghai, which perform strongly as places for business, but are not seen as attractive places to live.
There are also questions to be asked in those cities which, despite their status, size, history and other attributes, have a relatively low profile, at least when looked at from the world stage. Cities in this cohort include Madrid, Istanbul (fieldwork was conducted before this summer’s protests) and Bangkok. President Putin may be disappointed to see Moscow ranked alongside Brussels, in 31st place – if he wants more tourists he has lots to do.
Finally, there are the cities which are just not popular at all. Tel Aviv, Tehran and Karachi are anchored to the foot of the table, and barely trouble the scorer. Some will be surprised to see Budapest, Casablanca and Warsaw occupying the places just above them!
What of the future? Well, this is the first survey Ipsos has conducted of this kind, and we look forward to tracking our cities’ progress, perhaps adding a few more (such as Dubai) to the field as well. One thing to watch will be the perspectives of different generations, and how they evolve. At the moment, there is a broad consensus between younger and older people on the best places for business and best to visit. But on the best place to live we have an entirely different pattern: for the world’s 50-64 year olds, it’s Zurich, Sydney and Toronto which occupy the top 3 places. But among the under 35s, it’s London, New York and Paris.
Can London hold onto its top slot as this younger generation get older? Time will tell!